Windows 98, just as its name suggests, was released 24 years ago. Using the operating system nowadays sounds like a bad joke, considering that Microsoft has released much more advanced editions of Windows. But for a spacecraft, using software that was built using Windows 98 might represent everything it needs.
But that is now finally changing. The MARSIS tool (Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionospheric Sounding) that the Mars Express spacecraft carries also features software supported by the ‘ancient’ Windows 98. The Verge tells us that after many years when the Windows 98-based software was on board the spacecraft, the ESA (European Space Agency) finally decided to update it.
A much-needed decision
The Mars Express spacecraft arrived at Mars in 2003 to study it carefully. One of the goals is to determine if there is anything living on the Red Planet. To continue its operation and send relevant and improved data back to Earth, it’s obvious that carrying updated software is necessary.
Andrea Cicchetti, who’s a MARSIS operation manager at the National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF), declared as The Verge quotes:
By discarding data that we don’t need, the new software allows us to switch MARSIS on for five times as long and explore a much larger area with each pass,
The new software will help us more quickly and extensively study these regions in high resolution and confirm whether they are home to new sources of water on Mars. It really is like having a brand new instrument on board Mars Express almost 20 years after launch.
We don’t have an exact date of when the update will occur, nor the exact name of the new software that the Mars Express spacecraft will be carrying. But we’re hoping that we’ll find out new information on the subject soon enough!